Rex Murphy: Trudeau is Captain Canada to our threatened steel workers. Our oil workers? Silence

Steel and oil. Strength and energy. The world is built on both. They are both major Canadian industries.


President Donald Trump hints or bluffs of tariffs on steel (and then defers it) and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delays a vacation (DEFCON 1 at Sussex Drive) to do a reassurance tour of Canada’s steel cities. He’s “got their backs,” he tells steel workers. And good for him! That’s what a prime minister should do for a Canadian industry and the people who work in it.

And it shows in his approach to it. There is to be no “feminist gender analysis” for steel. No talk of upstream and downstream emissions. No national steel tax. No weaning the steel industry off coal. And therefore, at one of Trump’s many flighty musings, the PM undertook a full emergency tour with all the apparatus of his office, attended by national and local press, to assure all he is fighting for steel and its jobs. As said, he’s got their backs.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with workers at the Essar Steel Algoma plant in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., as MP Terry Sheehan looks on, Wednesday, March 14, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang


As we say in Newfoundland, that’s a different quintal of fish. Alberta oil hasn’t been under the hint of a threat. It’s been on the rack of dozens of real ones.

For reasons everybody knows Alberta has been in a savage downturn: layoffs by the thousands, capital flight, the locust onslaught of green apocalyptics, world prices, Fort Mac nearly burned down, the pre-emption of nearly every pipeline project, prime ministerial sit downs with vaporous, ferociously anti-Fort Mac Bill Nye, Neil Young wailings, the Lamentations of Leonardo Chinook DiCaprio, B.C.’s pledges to kill Trans Mountain whatever it takes, and foreign anti-oil money (see, please see, Vivian Krause’s reporting on this). Canada’s oil industry has tasted every plague and nuisance a careless world and fitful nature can command.

Pounded then from every quarter as it has been, have we had a prime ministerial tour, an “I have your back” message for oil? The answer is so obvious the question itself is lunatic.

However, what Trump can’t do, Trudeau did. He imposed an ever-escalating internal tariff, his and Minister McKenna’s fabulous carbon (dioxide) tax. As good as a tariff in blocking a resurgence or growth of the industry was his retooling of the National Energy Board to incorporate always popular gender analysis, upstream and downstream emission inventories, and every other bureaucratic torment that the busy minds of climate warriors can invent and inflict.

The cancellation of Energy East could be seen as a boost to the oil industry, though. If we’re talking about Saudi Arabia’s. Trudeau’s well-exercised love of visiting foreign lands really shouldn’t extend to supporting their industries as opposed to our own. Thirty-two Atlantic Liberal MPs, the whole roost of them, who know better, uttered barely a sad squeak when that thunderbolt fell. It could be said they didn’t have their oil industry’s back.

Rex Murphy: Trudeau is Captain Canada to our threatened steel workers. Our oil workers? Silence